Types of Visas for the United States

Types of Visas for the United States

The United States is a country full of opportunity and people go there for various reasons. There are numerous types of US visa available and the purpose of the trip, the length of stay, and the nationality of the visitor, determine which US visitor visa is required.

The three most common US visa types are the B1 Visa, the B2 visa, and the ESTA visa waiver. The ESTA authorization allows citizens of eligible countries to travel to the US for periods of up to 90 days, it is valid for two years. The online application process is quick, simple to complete.

The B1 and B2 visas are for visitors wishing to go to the US for tourism, business, and medical purposes for up to 90 days. The US visa application process is more conventional than the ESTA equivalent and can require a trip to a US embassy.

Before you apply for a US visa it is important to understand which one you need, and to ensure that you meet all the visa requirements.

The ESTA Visa Waiver Program

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is an electronic system which citizens of eligible countries can use to obtain travel authorization to the US without going through visa application process.

ESTA applications are processed within 24 hours. Eligible travelers can obtain the visa-waiver quickly, without the hassle of going to an embassy.

Although ESTA grants permission to travel to the US, it is not technically a visa. It is a visa-waiver, meaning that ESTA holders do not need to obtain a conventional visa to enter the US.

The electronic visa waiver have been available since 2009. They were designed to increase security at border control and to modernize the system of admitting visitors into the US.

ESTA visa waivers are valid for two years and allow visitors to enter the US for periods of up to 90 days. The ESTA application is straightforward to complete.

It is recommended to travel to the US leaving reasonable intervals and to not abuse the ESTA visa waiver as border officials may suspect you are intending to live there.

B1 and B2 Visas

The two most common US non immigrant visa types are the B1 and B2 Visas. The visas are intended for those who are not eligible to apply for an ESTA visa waiver.

B1 Visa for Business Purposes

The B1 Visa is intended for business purposes. The visa allows business travelers to go to the United States for periods of up to 90 days.

Travelers to the US should apply for this type of visa if the reason for their trip is business or work-related. Some of the possible purposes include negotiating, buying or selling products, and attending conferences, seminars or business meetings.

The B1 Visa is valid for a set period of between 6 months to a year depending on the requirements of the applicant.

The B1 US Visa application form requires careful preparation. Sometimes they are approved within 24 hours although the process can take up to a few weeks and require going to an embassy for an interview.

B2 Visa for Tourism and Medical Treatment

The B2 Visa  is for travelers who want to go to the US for tourism purposes, including visiting friends and family, as well as people seeking short-term medical treatment.

Each B2 Visa is issued for a specific time depending on the information stated in the visa application form. This can vary from a single-entry visa which allows a stay of up to three months to a multiple-entry visa, which allows numerous entries over a period of ten years.

To apply for a B2 Visa it is necessary to complete an application and go to a scheduled visa interview at an embassy. You need to provide supporting documentation and be able to provide evidence that the purpose of the trip is tourism.

Citizens of eligible countries can skip this process by obtaining the ESTA visa waiver.

Other types American visa types

Aside from the ESTA visa waiver and the B1 and B2 visas, there are numerous other options for specific purposes including types of immigrant visas for the USA

  • F-1 Visa: For studying long-term studying.
  • H-1B and H-2B Visas: For professionals who want to live and work in the US.
  • J-1 Visa: Offered to people participating in educational and business programs, such as summer schools and professional courses.
  • K-1 Visa: For those planning to marry an American citizen.
  • TN-NAFTA: Specifically for skilled Canadian and Mexican workers who seek employment in the US.